How to Choose a Career as a Teenager

How to Choose a Career as a Teenager Requires Planning and Exploration

Written by Jason

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Last updated Mar 26, 2024 | Published on Mar 25, 2024

How to Choose a Career as a Teenager: Follow These 6 Steps for an Easy Solution

Choosing a career as a teenager may seem like the silliest thing in the world. After all, you are supposed to suddenly know what you want to be as an adult? Looking at your parents, it may seem unfathomable to imagine yourself their ages, never mind choosing something that you will like to do by the time you are in your forties or fifties.

However, it is a good idea to take a proactive approach to career planning so you can lay a solid foundation for future professional endeavors. This guide offers actionable insights to help you make informed decisions and to consider a wide variety of career options as teenagers. Learn more about how to choose a career as a teenager with our few outlined steps.

How to Choose a Career as a Teenager and Find Your Career Paths

Why Choose a Career as a Teenager?

Actually, it is not necessarily about choosing the career that you will want to work until you are in your sixties. After all, a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) survey of people born between 1957 and 1964 proves that people tend to change jobs fewer times as they grow older. Here are some age ranges and number of times they typically change jobs: 

  • Ages 18 to 24: Change jobs an average of 5.7 times
  • Ages 25 and 34 years old: Change jobs an average of 2.4 times
  • Ages 35 and 44: Change jobs an average of 2.9 times 
  • Ages 45 and 52: Change jobs an average of 1.9 times

However, early career decisions, or at least understanding your interests, can help you start developing an acorn of long-term professional success and fulfillment (to develop into a full-fledged oak tree someday). Informed decision-making and self-assessment is so important, and it is critical to repeat that throughout your life and career management.

6 Steps to Choose a Career as a Teenager

Next, let’s launch into the steps to choose careers for teens. Career planning for teens does not have to be difficult, but there are separate steps you will want to take to make it happen.

Step 1: Understand yourself and your interests.

Let's Find Your Career Interests and Direction

What do you like to do? What are the classes you enjoy the most? If you know you love math and loathe reading, those are good things to note. It can help you develop your self-assessment in career exploration.

Check out some strategies to hone in on your interests:

  • Interactive self-assessment tools, such as, CareerExplorer, or VIA Character Strengths assessment can help summarize and interpret your interests.
  • Reflection and journaling (especially if you’re geared toward this) can help you explore your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Answer AI generated prompts, like “What activities make you lose track of time?” and “What achievements are you most proud of, and why?”
  • Seek feedback from teachers, mentors, and peers about your strengths. This may be tough to do, especially if you ask your football buddies, but most people will be willing to share feedback with you about your unique talents and abilities.
  • Explore a variety of interests and hobbies outside of school — extracurricular activities, clubs, volunteer opportunities and more — to decide how you might tackle your future career.
  • Consider your personal values. What are your deepest, most innermost values? What causes do you care about? What types of ethical causes are most important to you?

Step 2: Explore career options.

Choosing a career path for high school students involves researching different career fields and understanding their requirements. Ask yourself questions like the following:

  • What level of education and training am I willing to pursue? (How long do you want to be in school?)
  • What kind of work environment and lifestyle do you prefer? (Do you want to work in an office or on a boat in the ocean, bringing up lobsters?)
  • What are the job prospects and industry trends? (Is what you are considering going to be available as a job someday?)
  • What experiences and exposure do I need to gain? (What do you need to achieve, internship- or job-shadowing-wise, to achieve this career?)
  • What are the potential challenges and obstacles? (Anticipate potential barriers or challenges associated with specific career paths.)
  • Am I open to exploration and adaptation? (Do you have a curiosity and a willingness to explore new opportunities and industries? Are you adaptable?)

Spend time online. Learn about online resources focused on personal development and career exploration such as My Next Move. Learn about online resources focused on personal development and career exploration. You may learn about something that you would never considered before that will pique your interest, such as “snake milker” or “feng shui consultant.” (Yes, those job titles have actually existed!)

Step 3: Consider doing informational interviews and job shadowing.

Informational interviews can help you gain insights into various professions. Job shadowing is also a hands-on approach to understanding day-to-day responsibilities in different careers. It can help you network and seek guidance from professionals in desired fields.

It might help you compare and contrast traditional career paths and non-traditional options. Explore the benefits and challenges of each path, including job security, flexibility, and innovation. Ask these experts about industry trends and technological advancements and anything else that tickles your fancy.

Reach out to individuals in your community who work in the industry, starting with people you know. For example, you could shadow your uncle the CPA or your best friend’s dad, who owns a landscaping business.

Step 4: Ask yourself questions about work-life balance and personal values.

Career Success Requires Finding a Work Life Balance

You may or may not be in a position to consider this as a teenager, but think about your work-life balance and personal values when choosing a career. Do you want to work around the clock or have free time after work? Consider maintaining a healthy balance between work, personal life, and mental well-being and what that means for you.

Now, these might be a little tough to understand now, but just realize that becoming a neurosurgeon would demand many, many more hours of work and dedication than becoming a kindergarten teacher. (Obviously, there is nothing wrong with either, but both require a completely different set of professional requirements.)

Step 5: Consider setting some goals.

Next, consider short-term and long-term career goals. Create action plans and timelines for how you would like to achieve your career objectives. Do not forget to add in adaptability and continuous learning in today’s dynamic job market. Seek support from parents, teachers, counselors, and career advisors. What relevant classes and college exploration fit those goals?

Encourage alignment of high school coursework with career interests and academic pursuits. Career assessments can be a valuable tool to guide you in the right direction.

Seek guidance on exploring college options and assessing financial implications. Do not be afraid to consider alternative pathways to success, including vocational training, and entrepreneurship.

Step 6: Understand financial considerations.

Discuss financial considerations associated with higher education with your family. Explore options for financing education through scholarships, grants, and student loans. Strategically plan and understand financial literacy in pursuing career aspirations. 

Tips for Parents

Parents, you know this is tough stuff. The pressure to make huge decisions triggers anxiety and uncertainty. Expecting teenagers to have their entire future mapped out is not only unrealistic but also detrimental to them mentally. There is nothing worse than feeling as if you are held at a breakpoint to make a decision!

How to Choose a Career as a Teenager Requires Exploring Numerous Career Directions

As a parent or guardian, it is crucial to create a supportive environment for your teen during this transitional period. Here is how you can help. You can say things like:

  • “You do not have to choose a single career path for the rest of your life.”
  • “Explore various interests and pursue your passions without the fear of commitment to one field.”
  • “It is normal to have multiple careers throughout your lifetime. Embrace change and adaptability in today’s dynamic job market.”
  • “It is perfectly okay to defer, switch courses, or change your career trajectory if your current career doesn’t resonate with you.” 
  • “It is never too late to explore new opportunities and pursue different passions.”

To help them get ideas, consider asking questions like: 

  • “What do you envision yourself doing in the future?” 
  • “How big of a role do you want your work to play in your life?” 
  • “What activities do you do at the moment that give you excitement?” 

Many teenagers fear disappointing their parents if they deviate from a predefined path to a “perfect” job. However, it is essential to alleviate this pressure and remind them that their worth is not solely determined by their career choices. Encourage open dialogue and emphasize that career exploration is a journey, not a destination, free from the burden of unrealistic expectations.

By fostering an environment of support and understanding, you empower your teen to navigate the complexities of career exploration with confidence and resilience. Ultimately, the goal is to encourage their growth and self-discovery without the weight of undue expectations.

Expose Your Child to Many Activities

Offer opportunities for them to explore diverse extracurricular activities, through sports, the arts, sciences, travel, animals, history, or other fields. Encouraging active participation in diverse activities means your child can discover their interests, strengths, and passions. Maybe they have an interest in business and can join the high school’s Future Business Leaders or America (FBLA) Club. This exploration lays the foundation for informed decision-making and toward meaningful career pursuits. Encourage them to develop into a leadership role in these activities as well!

Pay Attention and Provide Feedback

Pay attention to what activities your child naturally gravitates toward and what they excel in. Notice their enthusiasm and engagement during different tasks and experiences. They may not even realize that they are good at something specific until someone points it out. Acknowledge their efforts and accomplishments and help them recognize their unique talents.

Keep everything very positive, even if you just receive a mumbled response. (Teenagers!) Recognize and praise their successes to boost their confidence and self-esteem. Speaking of, they may not feel that articulate themselves. Help them articulate their thoughts and feelings about their abilities and interests.

Provide Role Models

Who in your community might your child view as an admired leader? If someone you know exemplifies qualities, and has incredible talents and abilities, consider getting them in touch with your child. 

Career Exploration Can Help Idenfity Role Models for Teens

Support your child’s interests and passions by providing resources, access to learning opportunities, and mentorship. Encourage them to pursue activities that align with their strengths and aspirations.

You may not realize how much of an impact your words and actions have on your child. For example, when I was a high schooler, I stated that I thought I would be a great real estate agent. My mom made it very clear that she thought that was a “soft” option for a career and that I should not consider that career option. She also mentioned the same thing as I considered a career in sociology. She also made it very clear that I probably wasn’t cut out to be an artist, though I desperately loved creating art. (However, she did encourage my career choice as a writer, which was a better angle for me.)

Consider All the Angles

As you consider your future career, remember key takeaways from this article. Embrace self-discovery and career exploration with curiosity, resilience and an open mind — you will build a great foundation for a fulfilling future. Make informed decisions and pursue passions with dedication to shape your future successful career path. The journey of career exploration is dynamic and evolving, and it requires continuous learning and adaptation.

Is choosing a career after high school imperative? Not at all! College will help you identify many different options for you! 

Campus to Career Crossroads can help you with the process of self-discovery and help you identify the right career and educational opportunities for you. We’re experts in helping high school students choose a career. We offer additional resources, career assessment tools, and relevant relationship-building tools to enhance your journey of career development. Your proactive approach today will pave the way for a brighter tomorrow in your chosen career path. Reach out to our team at Campus to Career Crossroads for more information about how we can help you identify the right fit for you.

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